Sunday, May 10, 2009

An immunity to iocaine powder

Lots of punditry about Afghanistan and Pakistan lately. Is it the Apocalypse? What Should Be Done and Who Should Do It? How can "we" keep "them" from bringing us trouble? Should we fight them there so we don't have to fight them here?

I see this as a pretty simple deal. The real problem of Afghanistan is that any U.S. aims, regardless of what they are or how they are approached, are negated by the realities on the ground.It doesn't matter whether you want to do CT, COIN or full-blown colonialism. For any or all of the above you HAVE to have some sort of viable local social, political and military structures in place. The European colonial powers usually didn't import and entire Western government or military. They typically just knocked off the local leaders in critical positions, filled them with European viceroys and commanders-in-chief, and used the remaining local structures to rule. I understand that even by the late 19th Century there were villagers in India who saw an Englishman once a year or so. The bulk of the troops who did the Imperial policing were native. So were many of the lower civil servants.

So when you admit that "the ANA isn't up to the job", or that the Karzai government is a corrupt, incompetent kleptocracy that "rules" little more than its own offices in Kabul, you pretty much have declared that nothing but an extraordinary, budget-breaking effort will have even a hope of making Afghanistan anything but a chaotic, destroyed tribal chaos.And I would add that the notion of full-on colonialism is an exercise in imperial romanticism. The modern proliferation of automatic weaponry and cheap, simple explosives (for manufacturing bombs, mines and booby-traps) has made colonialism too expensive a proposition for the 21st Century's low-birthrate, risk-averse Western societies. It's a mug's game, which is why the Western Europeans got out of it post-WW2 and the Russians post-Soviet. If you can find a reliable local proxy, great. If not, you're shovelling water.Eventually the Afghans themselves will throw up a Baibur or a Gul Shah or a Tamurlane who will impose as much order as possible on the "country" and drag it a little further into the 21st Century, or as close as the natives of the place want to be.

But to pretend that the U.S. can do this, whether it's thru CT, COIN or magic fairy dust?

Vizzini would have two bits of advice for you: "Inconceivable!" and "Never get involved in a land war in Asia".


Lisa said...

I've not seen the film, but that is a great line on the Asian land war!

The Wanderers' Daughter said...

Again, as always, a beautifully-stated and intelligently thought-out editorial. You always cut to the heart of the matter, and I always find myself agreeing.
And btw the Sicilian scene as a parting allegory is perfection. Why is it that the Princess Bride plays into so many little truisms about life?

FDChief said...

Lisa, WD: Much of what I know about life, living and loving I learned from The Princess Bride. Wonderful film.

rangeragainstwar said...

Since we use rock and roll a lot we could title this discussion-Dust In The Wind. This describes the entire phony COIN operation perfectly.
My big disconnect is that if simple guys like you and me can see the obvious facts then why can't the new improved version of POTUS see it? Something is terribly wrong in Denmark especially when it's evaluated with your last post in mind- we're dying on the vine and we're tending their garden.